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The actual sea serpent from Disneyland's old Submarine Voyage is not your typical collectable. Richard Kraft is not your typical collector. And Finding Kraftland is not your typical documentary film.

No three hour lines here!
No three hour lines here!

Super collector Richard Kraft and his teenage son Nicky are the subjects of the documentary Finding Kraftland. Although Kraft originally made the film for a single screening at a father-son birthday party, the film has taken on a life of it own. Finding Kraftland has been a hit at several film festivals and will soon be screened at several more, including the Central Florida Film Festival in Kissimmee on August 31st and September 2nd, 2007. (There's more about the screenings at the end of this article.)

When MiceAge editor Al Lutz asked me if I'd like to interview Richard Kraft, I thought it would be fun—but how could I do so if I hadn't seen the film? Although the film is not available on DVD, Kraft offered to send a "screener" DVD to me. The next day, I found a FedEx envelope on my front porch. My 17-year-old daughter and I admired the contents. Sitting at my computer, I suggested, "let's pop in the DVD and watch the first five minutes." Finding Kraftland began to unfold on the monitor. A half hour later, we finally paused the movie so that she could get a chair. We watched the rest of the film.

In other words, Finding Kraftland was utterly successful in holding our interest from beginning to end.

Richard Kraft runs Kraft-Engel Management, the agency that represents a who's who of great film and theatre composers—including John Barry, Christophe Beck, Jon Brion, Alexandre Desplat, Danny Elfman, Philip Glass, Maurice Jarre, Alan Menken, John Ottman, Rachel Portman, John Powell, Trevor Rabin, Graeme Revell and Marc Shaiman.

Nicky Kraft is a smart high school student who lives in Oregon when he's not visiting his father. Nicky not only puts up with his father's excesses, he and his father are best friends.

Stacey Aswad, who hosts Walt Disney World: Top 7 Must Sees on Walt Disney World resort room televisions, reprises her cheerful, energetic role as the host of Finding Kraftland.

Stacey Aswad
Stacey Aswad

This time, it's the "Kraftland Top 10." To some degree, Kraftland is Richard Kraft's home and the "stuff" within it. To a much greater degree, Kraftland represents the lives of Richard Kraft, his son Nicky, and the people in their lives. The "Top 10" aren't artifacts, they're experiences of father and son Kraft. The film is ultimately about the importance of family, not about Disneyland or pop culture or collectables.

There's plenty of fun along the way. One of the "Top 10" segments is about Disneyland and Richard Kraft's incredible collection of current and "Yesterland" artifacts, including various actual ride vehicles. If there's a scene you don't like, don't worry—there will be a new scene in about two seconds.

Be on the lookout for Finding Kraftland at a film festival near you.

The Interview

WERNER WEISS: Walt Disney World resort guests will appreciate your creative decision to model Finding Kraftland after the Walt Disney World: Top 7 Must Sees loop that repeats over and over on resort room televisions—right down hiring the same host.

RICHARD KRAFT: Finding Kraftland was really born out of a trip to Disney World. Every year, I gather up a flock of friends and we head off on a "Buddies Trip." Two years ago, we were the "Orlando Buddies" spending a week at Disney World. Every morning we would gather in the lobby of the Grand Floridian and debate the merits of the promotional video that was endlessly looping in all of our hotel rooms. It was a hyperactive promo piece hyping the parks' top attractions. The host of it was a really high energy woman named "Stacey," and over breakfast each day we would argue over whether we were in love with her or wanted to suffocate her with a giant Pooh plush.

By the end of the trip, we were hooked. My son and I came up with the idea of doing a "Kraftland Top 10" video to feature our various collections. When we returned to L.A. I asked my assistant to track down "Stacey." Within minutes I was on the phone with her agent in North Carolina. I explained what we wanted to do, trying mighty hard not to sound like a stalker in the process.

An hour later Stacey Aswad called back. After making sure I was not a total nut-job, she agreed to fly out to California for a three-day shoot.

WEISS: How did that go?

KRAFT: Over three grueling 18-hour days, we had shot about 20 minutes of Stacey hosting a "look at this neat stuff" video. It was really boring. As much as I loved the stuff featured in the film and as great as Stacey was, after about 10 minutes of product shots of thousands of board games and mountains of Disneyland ride vehicles, it all blended into one long episode of "Cribs Goes Geek."

Stacey and an Atom-mobile
Stacey and an Atom-mobile

My collaborator on the movie is a filmmaker, Adam Shell. We were writing and directing the film together. The entire time we were shooting Adam kept asking, "Why do you collect all this crap?"

And as I started to answer, he started to film. Eventually he went out and shot 50 hours of interviews with our friends, family and clients. I also dug up hours of old home movies. Then, over a three-month period of editing from 7 p.m. until 3 a.m. (we both have day jobs), we started to make a very different film than the original "Top Ten Countdown of Kraftland." It became increasingly personal, and more and more about my relationship with my son, Nicky.

WEISS: Did Stacey Aswad enjoy doing a self-parody of her enthusiastic Walt Disney World role?

KRAFT: For us, she was a dream. She put in insanely long days and was always
upbeat and perky. She had a trillion costume and hair and make-up changes so she never had a moment to rest during our 18-hour days. Our final shot was of her and Nicky sharing a bath surrounded by a hundred of Soakie Bubble dispensers. She ended up having such a great experience that she recently decided to move from North Carolina and follow her acting dream in Los Angeles. As a matter of fact, she just got hired as the on-court host for the L.A. Sparks.

WEISS: I don't think I've ever seen a movie with so many quick edits, as well as so many image inserts. Has anyone counted how many scenes there are? If so, what's the count?

KRAFT: Both my editor and I are fairly ADD. The one thing I didn't want my film to be was boring. I liked throwing the kitchen sink into every shot. I could not begin to count the number of inserts, but it is rare that anything is on the screen for more than a few seconds. And at 70 minutes, that is a lot of seconds to cut to new things.

WEISS: Your movie's website says that Finding Kraftland was "originally intended to have a one-time-only Birthday screening."

Nicky, Stacey and Richard
Nicky, Stacey and Richard

KRAFT: Since Nicky and I almost share a birthday (his is March 2nd and I am March 1st), we always throw elaborate themed costume parties together. We decided for his 16th birthday we would do a big "Premiere Cast and Crew Screening" of Finding Kraftland at Paramount Studios. There were 750 people in the audience. As soon as the lights went down I panicked, it was like giving hundreds of people a guided tour through my dirty sock drawer.

When the film ended there was a surprising reaction, besides people laughing and having a good time, a number of people said they were inspired and were touched emotionally. They suggested submitting to film festivals, which had never crossed my mind.

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© 2007 Werner Weiss

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